You’re driving down the street minding your own business when seemingly out of nowhere, another car cuts you off. You jam on your brakes to avoid an accident and as the other driver pulls away, he gives you “the finger”. Or you’re cruising down the Kennedy Expressway through Chicago when another car seems to be “boxing” you into traffic. You can’t get out of your lane and this is forcing you to drive much slower than you would like. Every time you speed up, he does as well. It seems to you like he’s doing this on purpose and you’ve late for something very important.
Other Drivers Can be Aggravating
Every day on local streets and highways, in cities from Chicago to Arlington Heights and all across Illinois, drivers get mad, insulted, offended and enraged while driving. Sometimes, it’s the result of intentional aggressive behavior by other drivers and sometimes it’s purely unintentional on their part. After all, not everyone is as fantastic a driver as you are. Although “Student Driver” stickers seem to on the bumper of at least one-half of all cars these days, some of those cars actually do contain a bona fide student driver who is just learning the rules of the road. Other cars may contain elderly or handicapped drivers. Other cars still, are being driven by just plain lousy, awful drivers who don’t really intend to annoy you, but they just can’t seem to help it.
How You React to Aggressive Driving Makes All the Difference
Someday soon, all we’ll need to do is pick up our iPhone 17 and ask Siri to call us a self-driving Uber. Within a few minutes, a driverless Tesla will pull up and we’ll hop in back. The ride will be smooth and without incident as virtually every car on the street will be another driverless Uber. Because computers don’t get insulted by other computers, each car’s software program will work in harmony with the other cars’ computers and being driven will be a pleasure.
Has that day come yet? Heck no! Today’s roads are full of 797 Horsepower Dodge Challengers weaving through traffic at high speeds and 98 Horsepower Chevy Sparks slowly coasting in neutral to the stoplight to improve their gas mileage. So, what can a normal driver do? Be calm. Laugh a little. Realize that inside every other car is also a human being who just like you, has things on their mind, problems and personal limitations. If you can do that, you’ll get to your destination without any issues. But if you can’t let it go, you may quickly find yourself in a deep conversation with a Chicago Police officer and an appointment at Daley Center Traffic Court or the Criminal Courts Building to explain your actions to the Judge.
Is There Really a Crime Called Road Rage?
Some years ago, the Illinois legislature introduced a proposed new crime to be called “Road Rage”. It was intended to be a jailable Class B misdemeanor for a first offense and a Class A misdemeanor for additional offenses. It was defined as a person who intentionally and with malice drove his or her vehicle in such an unlawful manner so as to put in danger the property or physical safety of another pedestrian, bicyclist or driver. It also provided that if the road rage resulted in permanent disfigurement or great bodily harm, then the crime could be upgraded to a Class 4 felony with mandatory 48 hours minimum jail upon conviction. This legislation also proposed another new crime called “Aggressive Driving” which was intended to punish a person who operates a vehicle carelessly or without the proper attention, caution, concern, or regard for the rights or safety of others.
This legislation never actually passed into law however, so presently, there are no actual traffic crimes in Illinois called Road Rage or Aggressive Driving. This is most likely because there were already many other existing traffic offenses in the State that could be charged against aggressive drivers, and the legislature likely decided that the addition of additional crimes was unnecessary.
What Traffic or Criminal Offenses Might I be Charged with Instead?
But just because there’s no specific crime called “Road Rage” doesn’t mean you’ve got nothing to worry about. Chicago police really dislike aggressive traffic altercations and there are many possible offenses that you might be charged with instead, such as:
- Reckless Driving: This is when a person drives a vehicle with what is considered to be a wanton or reckless disregard for the safety of others or their property. It’s not only a misdemeanor with possible jail time but can also result in the revocation of a person’s driver’s license under certain circumstances.
- Failure to Reduce Speed to Avoid an Accident and Failure to Maintain Proper Distance: Tailgating? Playing traffic games to get back at the other driver for some perceived slight? You may receive one of both of these tickets, especially if an accident occurs as a result.
- Driving Below the Posted Speed Limit: Did you get in front of the other driver and slow down to annoy them? Then you may be issued this moving violation.
- Criminal Damage to Property: Did the other driver annoy you so much that you actually got out of your car and confronted him/her? Judges and prosecutors look poorly on those that exit their vehicles to confront other drivers. To express yourself, did you kick the other person’s car or rip off their sideview mirror to show them that you meant business? Then this misdemeanor may be in your future.
- Battery and Assault: If the emotions of the moment got the best of you and you actually touched the other driver, either with your body or with an object, then the police may decide to charge you with a criminal battery. If you didn’t actually touch the other person, but acted in any way that caused them to fear for their imminent safety (approached them aggressively, shook your fist in their face, displayed a gun or other weapon, etc), then you might be charged with Assault.
Speak to our Experienced Traffic Legal Team in Chicago
Judges and prosecutors tend to dislike road rage cases and seem often inclined to sentence offenders to enhanced punishment in such circumstances. So, whether you’ve been charged with Reckless Driving or a petty moving violation, it’s always best to consult a knowledgeable attorney before going to court. You can contact Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC any time of day to arrange a free consultation at (312) 644-0444.